NHL Playoff Preview – Blackhawks vs. Canucks: Ready For War?

 

Where do we begin previewing the second round series between the Vancouver Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks?

Before we get to the fun fighting videos, we’ll talk hockey. These two teams clearly don’t like each other, and played a heated season series in which each team won two games. In the first game between the two, Willie Mitchell left the penalty box and (with a clean hit) knocked Jonathan Toews out cold on the ice. The concussion Chicago’s captain received would cost him a few games. Brent Seabrook also had his bells ringing after the game in October, and missed a couple games after it as well.

Both teams had to remove their starting goalie from a game. Antti Niemi, in his first back-to-back start opportunity of the season, failed miserably in January and was pulled after allowing three goals on only 12 shots in the first. Similarly, Roberto Luongo got the hook in early March after allowing five first period goals on only 14 shots.

Overall this season, there wasn’t a netminder that distinguished himself in this series. Luongo had a pedestrian .905 save percentage and a 2.72 goals against average in four starts, while Niemi was just a touch better with a .918 save percentage and 2.59 goals against average in three starts against Vancouver.

Offensively, the Blackhawks spread the wealth against the Canucks this year. Eight different Blackhawks scored a goal in the four games against Vancouver this year, including Bryan Bickell. In total, nine Blackhawks had multiple points in the season series, let by Toews’ four points. Duncan Keith averaged exactly 27 minutes per game against Vancouver this year.

For Vancouver, the scoring was equally balanced. Seven different Canucks scored against the Hawks this lead, led by Mikael Samuelsson’s three goals. Alex Burrows, led seven multiple point-scoring Canucks with five points against Chicago this season.

OK, let’s talk about the physical history between the two teams.

Perhaps we’ll start with this fun little video from last year:

There were a couple penalties handed out for this one, but the clear loser in the fight was Burrows. The best he could do was pull Duncan Keith’s hair. In the playoff series, Andrew Ladd took a run at Ryan Kesler, which sparked a personal rivalry that’s shown up in each game this season. Whenever these two teams get together it’s heated; perhaps the best evidence of that is the 50 combined penalty minutes (30 in the first period) from their game this March.

Then there was this little throw-down from January of this year.

That little how-do-you-do left Kesler with a bloody face and salty attitude. Before the next meeting between these two teams in February, Kesler would call Ladd out, only to later backpeddle on his statements. When the teams met again in March, after a dust-up between Ladd and Kesler early in the game and an exchanging of pleasantries between Tanner Glass and Ben Eager, Andrew Alberts made the mistake of trying to fight Seabrook.

So, in summary, this series will feature some of the best young players in the game. Henrik and Daniel Sedin, as well as Kesler, have emerged as superstar forwards in the league, while Toews, Keith and Patrick Kane all made an impact on the Olympics. Both netminders weren’t very good in the season series, but are playing some of their best hockey in April. And there will probably be a fight or two before it’s all over.

 

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